After I completed my cruise on the Allure and finished my rather fantastic eastern Canadian road trip (it’s not all about ships and the ocean). I headed back to Japan to tie up all the lose ends there. By Christmas, cruising was well behind me, with 2017 shaping up to be the year for resettling back in Australia.
The first priority in Japan was to pack up my home of eight years. I had a Japanese moving firm come over to provide some assistance with packing and shipping all my earthly possessions back to Australia; that is after selling, giving, and throwing away as much as I could, my life was now reduced to just 8 boxes 📦 . With the boxes now on the way to my brother’s place in Sydney, I left my home in Sapporo for the final time and headed to Niseko. One more season of snow and ice, cooking a daily breakfast for a dozen or so guests, sipping whisky late into the night by the fire with many of the same guests, and shuttling them around the resort. One more season, and I would be back in Australia.
At some point towards the end of the season, my friend in Switzerland invited me to his wedding, which, inconveniently, was to be in Switzerland in July. How could I possibly get myself settled, start a new job back in Australia in May or June, and immediately ask for leave to go to Switzerland? If I was to do this, it would hamper establishing myself back in Australia. I put this trip on the back-burner.
In April, after many sad farewells, I headed to Sydney to start my new life back in Australia. However as Robert Burns wrote “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley” and that’s exactly how my plans went; awry!!
These boxes, these 8 most important boxes, were not at my brothers house, after an email exchange with the moving company enquiring as to the whereabouts of my boxes, They assured me they were at the Sydney warehouse, relieved I called the warehouse, but with Burn’s words still haunting my arrival back in Australia, the boxes were not there.
So another email exchange with the company I informed them that the boxes were not in Australia. They said that they would look into it and would contact me as soon as they had news. About two days later they called me with some “bad news“ the boxes were still in Japan, they’re in a warehouse in Tokyo.
I was actually quite relieved with this news. I had just scored 5½ months of free storage 😀 , and I hadn’t had to bother my brother or anyone else in the family with storage or looking after the boxes. But then the other shoe dropped, the moving company informed me that the boxes were going to take three to four weeks before they arrived in Sydney.
What was I going to do for three to four weeks? I had no idea. I wasn’t prepared to go searching for a home yet; quite frankly my life was on pause. What was I going to do while I waited? Go on a cruise? No that’s a silly idea! But I logged in to the Royal Caribbean website just to see what was available, the Explorer of the Seas was leaving in a week on a trans-Pacific repositioning to Seattle, and it was going to take just over three weeks. A three week cruise, three to four weeks before the boxes arrived. Just like Romeo and Juliet, it was a star crossed event, it couldn’t have been more perfect (I am just hoping the whole thing doesn’t finish the same way).
Excited about this I went ahead and booked it. The interesting thing about the Royal Caribbean website, it defaults to double occupancy when you try to book anything. I flew past the number of guests page, and saw the total price was just over $4,500AUD. Then I noticed that it was for 2 passengers, so I went back and modified the booking to a single passenger. It was now over $9,500 🤯.
I couldn’t believe it, two people was less that half the price of a single person. I called Royal Caribbean to confirm that this was the price and yes it was correct. Single was closer to $10k but for two people it was just over $4,500. I asked if I could book for two people, and was told no you can’t you are travelling alone so you must book a single. This made no sense to me, so after I hung up, I went back online booked it for two, and paid half. I then went around my circle of friends to see if anybody was interested in a 3 week cruise leaving in a few days. But when you are in your 40’s there aren’t many people who can up and leave on such short notice (which I think is a terrible thing). The following weekend I was at Circular Quay and boarded the Explorer of the Seas. I honestly had no idea what this cruise would begin.
This was a fantastic cruise. We visited some of the South Pacific islands, (Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji). I spent many sea days in the Schooner Bar, playing trivia, and chatting with other guests, and in the evenings I visited the casino. The cruise director staff were a terrific bunch of guys and gals, all working hard to keep us entertained on this cruise with around 2 weeks of sea days.
This cruise was kind of the opposite of the Allure. It was less a party and more a journey and a bit of adventure. This was the kind of cruising I enjoyed. This was something I wanted to do more of. I visited the Next Cruise office onboard to see if there were any other epic journeys that Royal Caribbean offered. It turns out that RCI doesn't do a lot of these types of journeys. From America they are predominantly 1 week Caribbean cruises. Europe definitely has more interesting journeys, but those long epic cruises, trans Pacific and Atlantic cruises are brackets surrounding main itineraries. But there was hope. The Mariner of the Seas was scheduled to do a massive journey Singapore to Miami via the Suez. The day it went on sale (mid cruise on the Explorer) I booked it.
So now I had my cruise for 2018 booked. My life plan was get to Seattle, fly back to Sydney, and get myself squared away. But that curveball of a wedding in Switzerland had been pitched, and I had to decide if I was going or not. Hell you only live once, I have never been to a wedding in Switzerland, so I confirmed my attendance. Now I was going to Europe for a few weeks, I thought I may as well add a cruise to my journey.
(You can see how things quickly began to spiral out of control). So I booked 2 weeks Mediterranean cruise on the Navigator. So that was it, fly to Europe, do the cruise, go to the wedding, and fly home. But no, there was one other curveball pitched, a day before the cruise finished, a certificate landed on my bed from the casino. I had won (earned) a free cruise. There was a rather limited list of cruises to choose from, mostly 4 nighters in the Caribbean, which didn't really appeal to me. But there was one cruise that appealed to me, 1 week on the Explorer, west coast Seattle to San Francisco. That looked like the winner, but what clinched the deal, it was the final cruise of the American season, before heading back to Australia. So I claimed my free cruise and booked the crossing back to Australia.
Bookings for 2017 now stood as 2 weeks in the Med, 1 week West Coast, and 3 weeks back to Australia. Then I could settle down and get my life back on track. But first I needed to leave Europe, and get to America for those cruises. A problem that I found the best solution was more cruises. Serenade of the Seas was going to do a trans-Atlantic arriving in Boston 2 weeks prior to the West Coast cruise. Perfect. Could it be better? Yes, yes it could. It was doing a Norwegian Fjord cruise prior to the crossing, just a couple of weeks after the wedding. So the bookings continued to mount up.
In the end it was just easier to fill in gaps with cruises, so I continued to add to my future bookings.
- 2 weeks between Serenade and Explorer - Liberty is doing a 1 week cruise out of Galveston.
- Getting to Singapore to join the Mariner, the Ovation was doing a 2 week cruise arriving same day as Mariner was due to leave.
- Radiance was doing a circumnavigation of Australia‽ I have to do that!
- The Voyager is in Australia‽ That's a ship I haven't been on.
- Mariner is getting me to America, I need to get home, back on Explorer it is.
- A couple of months between Mariner and Explorer, let's go crazy, Harmony, Grandeur, Majesty, Enchantment, and Adventure all booked. (August is a bit expensive, I'll take a month off).
and so on.. my plan for returning to Australia might have been a mess, but cruising was turning into something that I could easily find a place for, and there seemed to always be a gap and a chance to take another cruise.
And then it dawned on me, with all this cruising I would be close to Pinnacle, the top tier of the Crown and Anchor program, so I decided to make that an objective, a nice way to finalise my journey. Let's get to Pinnacle on my final cruise back home on the Explorer. It was then that whoever was the lovely staff member in the Next Cruise office pointed out, that I wouldn't get any of the benefits of being Pinnacle for that cruise. Doh! With this in mind, I added one more cruise to all my bookings. My life was now fully scheduled until November 2018, and I was now essentially a Royal Caribbean resident.